Question: fish in acidic marinade overnight?

I’ve been cooking a lot of North African dishes recently and noticed an easy recipe the other day that was printed on the side label of a jar of Moroccan tagine spice. It called for making a paste for fish rub using 1 part spice : 2 parts oil : 3 parts citrus + rub liberally inside/out + marinate “up to 1 night”.

It seemed like a good idea, so I picked up a sizable filet of red snapper from Sun Fat Seafood in the SF Mission District yesterday, followed the simple steps, and bagged it in the fridge overnight. It just dawned on me, however, that I’ve read so many conflicting statements re. marinating fish in lemon juice for extended hours. Supposedly, the acids break down the proteins and mess with the texture? Am I gonna end up with some kind of “ceviched” snapper? I’m planning to blacken/pan fry this evening in clarified butter with halved lemon. I’m thinking a big filet of snapper is firm enough to stand up to this marinade; am I overthinking things?

I think even beyond ceviched. Really overdone.


One of my favorite marinades for fish has tomato sauce and fresh lemon and orange juice. I never marinate for more than a couple of hours for swordfish… considerably less time for less dense cuts.

Over-marinating will affect the texture making it seemingly over-cooked.

Shoot… should I just pick up a new filet this aft?

Why would the spice jar specify to “leave marinate up to 1 night” if that’s the case? Surely, it’s been tested and worked out for them. :confused:

It’s hard to tell, but the flesh does look a bit tough…

I would perhaps resign yourself to having ceviche for dinner tonight.

That sucks, I don’t think it will work as ceviche with this blackening rub. I guess I’ll just buy another filet, it wasn’t too expensive, but what a stupid waste.

Make jerky out it - use a microwave if you don’t have a dehydrator.

I might just make it for brunch in a couple hrs to test it out… sounds like I’m gonna have to pick up something new for tonight though. :face_with_diagonal_mouth:

I still don’t get the wording on the jar… “Leave marinate up to 1 night.”

Is it possible that the instructions envisioned you using a whole skin-on snapper? That I could see possibly standing up to an overnight marinade. But not a filet.

I suppose that’s possible, but I do see online recipes (Seafood Nutrition Partnership?) that call for the same and specifically with red snapper. Doesn’t snapper have fairly firm flesh? I just can’t imagine why anyone would bother rubbing a blackening paste on a whole skin-on snapper; how would you even pan fry something that size? I guess if it were intended for baking that might seem more plausible…

The instruction to “rub inside and out” is what made me think that. But who knows. Hope it tastes good, whether ceviche or pan fried

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You’re right on. I just tried to fry it in a skillet and it basically fell apart and turned to mush :frowning:

Oh well, at least I figured it out early enough to avert a disaster at dinner. So what’s the recommended marinade time for a filet of snapper, 30-40 minutes?

30 to 60 minutes sounds about right. It will depend on how potent your marinade is and how much flavor you wish to impart.

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I realize that this is kinda done but the whole Premise seems strange to me.
I have never heard of a wet Marinade or Paste being used for “Blackening” Fish before.
The Technique relies on a thin caramelized spice Crust to season the Fish and a very high Temp to do it quickly so that the Fish does not overcook.
The Filet should be very dry or the Butter it is dipped in before seasoning will not coat the Fish.

Both heat and acid denature/cook protein – change its structure.

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I bet this is literally one of those cases where something was lost in the translation.


An American classic. After savoring the real deal from his hands, we came home and figured out that a searingly hot charcoal grill yields good results.

Perhaps I misinterpreted the recipe, I suppose it doesn’t actually specify anything about blackening…

Tbh, I’ve only ever done dry rubs for fish. I think I’m gonna just scrap the plans and recipe altogether & just pick up some scallops to pan sear for dinner, since I went to the trouble of clarifying butter for this.

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